17 June 2019

Anti-refugee sentiment in schools

Over half of teachers have witnessed anti-refugee sentiment in the classroom


Over half of teachers have witnessed anti-refugee sentiment in the classroom, reveals British Red Cross research

Lack of education and negativity on social media cited as causes

Over half (52%) of teachers surveyed* say they have witnessed prejudice towards refugees in their classroom, according to research from the British Red Cross.

The charity polled over 750 primary and secondary school teachers* across the UK, with four in five (80%) of those who have witnessed anti-refugee sentiment believing that children are influenced by the negative opinions of their friends and family, and over half (54%) identifying the media, including social media, newspapers, magazines and TV as a contributing factor to this behaviour.

Just under half of these teachers surveyed cited a lack of education about refugees as a possible cause (49%), with 77% of teachers agreeing that more needs to be done in UK schools to teach children about refugees. Further research revealed that almost a quarter of school children between the ages of 8 and 15 don’t know what a “refugee” is (24%).

To combat this, during Refugee Week (17-23 June) the British Red Cross will deliver hundreds of workshops across the country, to educate over 3,000 young people on the reality of what it means to be a refugee.

The workshops in schools will help young people to develop an understanding as to why someone might have to flee their home and discuss the challenges and stigma that refugees sometimes face in the UK.

The Red Cross has also launched a new social media movement - #EveryRefugeeMatters - to try to change the conversation about refugees online. The charity says that it is often inundated with negative or racist comments when it posts about refugees on social media, so it has created a new film revealing the reality of life as a refugee and a new Facebook page, for people to show that they welcome refugees to this country.

The British Red Cross is the largest independent provider of support to refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK. Last year the charity distributed almost 20,000 food parcels to refugees in the UK and helped to reunite almost 1,000 families separated by war and conflict, as well as providing volunteering and education opportunities across the country.

Over 44,000 people around the world are forced to flee their homes every day as a result of conflict and persecution**. Last year, 5,777 refugees were settled in communities across the UK.

Alex Fraser, Director of Refugee Support and Restoring Family Links at the British Red Cross said:

“We know that refugees desperately want to rebuild their lives here in the UK and leave behind the horrors they have experienced.
“The refugees we support tell us they want to find work, make friends, reconnect with family, study and play their role in a new society. But they face many challenges.

“While we hear and witness many amazing stories of individuals and communities who have welcomed refugees from across the world, we do also see negative comments playing out on social media, in the street and in classrooms.

“We want to encourage a more informed conversation online and in schools, empower refugees to tell their own stories and create conditions of greater shared understanding, enabling refugees to rebuild their lives in communities across the country.”

The charity is calling on the public to share the film to show they believe that #EveryRefugeeMatters.

For more information, please contact:

Joseph Cross, josephcross@redcross.org.uk, 02078777299 / 07710 391 703

Freya Carr, fcarr@redcross.org.uk, 02078777461 / 077931 67035 

Notes to editor

• Refugee Week takes place every year across the world in the week around World Refugee Day on the 20 June - celebrating the contributions and creativity of refugees and encouraging successful integration.

• The British Red Cross is the UK’s largest independent provider of support to refugees and people seeking asylum.

• The British Red Cross provides thousands of refugees and people seeking asylum every year with support ranging from food and clothing to small amounts of cash for emergency items as well as volunteering and learning opportunities.

• All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.
Teachers: Total sample size was 759 primary and secondary school teachers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 3rd - 7th June 2019.  The survey was carried out online.
Children: Total sample size was 1097 GB children aged 8-15. Fieldwork was undertaken between 31st May - 5th June 2019.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB children (aged 8-15).

• Question asked: Thinking about your classroom in a typical school year (e.g. the lessons you teach, form time etc.) ...How often, if at all, would you say you see or hear any anti-refugee sentiment from schoolchildren in your classroom? *

• UNHCR stats** https://www.unhcr.org/uk/figures-at-a-glance.html